Five GOP Senators Seek Info From NIH Acting Director on Royalty Payments to Feds

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Five Republican senators have asked National Institutes of Health (NIH) Acting Director Lawrence Tabak for a comprehensive accounting of every royalty payment by an outside source to an employee of the federal agency since 2009.

“We believe that the American taxpayer deserves to know 1) the degree to which government doctors and researchers have a financial interest in drugs and products they support, and 2) whether any relationship exists between federal grants awarded by NIH and royalty payments received by NIH personnel,” the senators told Tabak in a letter that was made public on June 1.

“Additionally, Americans deserve greater transparency in how the hundreds of millions in royalty payments NIH receives are distributed, and the degree to which NIH’s leadership—already among the highest-paid individuals in the federal bureaucracy—has benefited from this ‘hidden’ revenue stream.”

The five senators are Rand Paul of Kentucky, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Rick Scott of Florida. Tabak has been acting NIH chief since his predecessor, Dr. Francis Collins, resigned in December after leading the agency for a dozen years.

The GOP senators’ letter was prompted by revelations first reported by The Epoch Times based on information obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) submitted to NIH by Open the Books, an Illinois-based nonprofit government watchdog.

“We estimate that up to $350 million in royalties from third parties were paid to NIH scientists during the fiscal years between 2010 and 2020,” Open the Books CEO Adam Andrzejewski said in a telephone news conference on May 9.

“We draw that conclusion because, in the first five years, there has been $134 million that we have been able to quantify of top-line numbers that flowed from third-party payers—meaning pharmaceutical companies or other payers—to NIH scientists.”

The first five years, from 2010 to 2014, constitute 40 percent of the total, he said.

“We now know that there are 1,675 scientists that received payments during that period, at least one payment. In fiscal year 2014, for instance, $36 million was paid out and that is on average $21,100 per scientist,” he said.

Collins received 14 payments while serving as NIH director, according to the information obtained by Open the Books. Dr. Anthony Fauci received 23 payments, and his deputy, Clifford Lane, got eight payments during the period.

Tabak conceded during a recent congressional hearing that the payments “have the appearance of a conflict of interest.” Republicans have since been vocal in demanding that NIH be more forthcoming about the royalty payments, while Democrats have been unusually quiet.

By Mark Tapscott

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